Centres of Excellence

  • Last updated: 04 Jul. 2024 08:25

Centres of Excellence (COEs) are international military organisations that train and educate leaders and specialists from NATO member and partner countries. They assist in doctrine development, identify lessons learned, improve interoperability and capabilities, and test and validate concepts through experimentation. They offer recognised expertise and experience that is of benefit to the Alliance, and support the transformation of NATO, while avoiding the duplication of assets, resources and capabilities already present within the Alliance.

The acting ASG for Defence Investment, Robert Weaver (centre front), and to his right, the Deputy Chief of Staff Multi-Domain Force Development, Rear Admiral Placido Torresi, with the COE Directors at NATO Headquarters, 22-23 May 2024.


  • COEs cover a wide variety of areas such as civil-military operations, cyber defence, military medicine, energy security, naval mine warfare, defence against terrorism, cold weather operations, counter-IED, climate change and security, and space.
  • Allied Command Transformation has overall responsibility for COEs and is in charge of the establishment, accreditation, preparation of candidates for approval, and periodic assessments of the centres.
  • COEs are nationally or multi-nationally funded. NATO does not directly fund COEs nor are they part of the NATO Command Structure. 


Role of the Centres of Excellence  

COEs generally specialise in one functional area and act as subject-matter experts in their field. They distribute their in-depth knowledge through four pillars:

  • Education, training, exercise and evaluation (ETEE),
  • Analysis and lessons learned (ALL),
  • Doctrine development and standardization (DDS), and
  • Concept development and experimentation (CDE).

COEs work alongside the Alliance even though NATO does not directly fund them and they are not part of the NATO Command Structure. They are nationally or multi-nationally funded and are part of a supporting network, encouraging internal and external information exchange to the benefit of the Alliance. The overall responsibility for COE coordination and utilisation within NATO lies with Allied Command Transformation (ACT), in coordination with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

Currently, there are 30 COEs with NATO accreditation. The working language of COEs is generally English.


NATO-accredited Centres of Excellence

  1. Air Operations
  2. Civil-Military Cooperation
  3. Climate Change and Security
  4. Cold Weather Operations
  5. Combined Joint Operations from the Sea
  6. Command and Control
  7. Cooperative Cyber Defence
  8. Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices
  9. Counter Intelligence
  10. Crisis Management and Disaster Response
  11. Defence Against Terrorism
  12. Energy Security
  13. Explosive Ordnance Disposal
  14. Human Intelligence
  15. Integrated Air and Missile Defence
  16. Joint Air Power
  17. Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence
  18. Maritime Geospatial, Meteorological and Oceanographic
  19. Maritime Security
  20. Military Engineering
  21. Military Medicine
  22. Military Police
  23. Modelling and Simulation
  24. Mountain Warfare
  25. Naval Mine Warfare
  26. Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters
  27. Security Force Assistance
  28. Space
  29. Stability Policing
  30. Strategic Communications

Air Operations (AO) COE, also known as the Centre for Analysis and Simulation of Air Operations (CASPOA)

Location: Lyon, France

Expertise: command and control in joint and multinational air operations. The centre uses computer-assisted exercises (CAX) and command-post exercises (CPX) to achieve this objective. The COE also analyses lessons learned from both real operations and exercises to aid in training personnel and developing simulation tools.

Framework Nation: France

Accreditation: 2008

Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) COE

Location: The Hague, the Netherlands

Expertise: improving civil-military interaction and cooperation between NATO, Sponsoring Nations and other military and civil groups by utilising the skills and expertise of CIMIC's own staff. The centre is also open to other international organisations (European Union, non-governmental organisations and scientific institutions).

Framework Nations: Germany and the Netherlands

Accreditation: 2007

Climate Change and Security (CCAS) COE

Location: Montreal, Canada

Expertise: developing shared knowledge of the security impacts of climate change so that Allies can acquire the capabilities that will be required in the future security environment and establish best practices to reduce the climate impact of military activities.

Framework Nation: Canada

Accreditation: 2024

Cold Weather Operations (CWO) COE

Location: Elverum, Norway

Expertise: focuses on operations in the extreme cold and collaborates with other institutions, for instance the Mountain Warfare COE in Slovenia. 

Framework Nation: Norway

Accreditation: 2007

Combined Joint Operations from the Sea (CJOS) COE

Location: Norfolk, Virginia, United States

Expertise: countering global security challenges by improving the ability of the Sponsoring Nations and NATO to conduct combined joint operations from the sea. It also advises the Alliance on how to improve multinational education, training, doctrine and interoperability on maritime operations.

Framework Nation: United States

Accreditation: 2006

Command and Control (C2) COE

Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands

Expertise: providing expertise on all aspects of the Command and Control (C2) process with a focus on the operational environment. It also assists NATO with exercises and assessment processes and supports ACT Headquarters with policy, doctrine, strategy and concept development, and provides C2 training.

Framework Nation: The Netherlands

Accreditation: 2008

Cooperative Cyber Defence (CCD) COE

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Expertise: fostering cooperation, capabilities and information-sharing on cyber security between NATO countries using, for instance, exercises, law and policy workshops, technical courses and conferences to prepare NATO and Sponsoring Nations to detect and fight cyber attacks. It also conducts research and training in several areas of cyber warfare. 

Framework Nation: Estonia

Accreditation: 2008

Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) COE

Location: Madrid, Spain

Expertise: enhancing the capabilities needed to counter, reduce and eliminate threats from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by offering multinational courses for C-IED experts.

Framework Nation: Spain

Accreditation: 2010

Counter Intelligence (CI) COE

Location: Kraków, Poland

Expertise: helping to expand the capabilities of the Alliance, its member countries and partners by providing comprehensive expertise in the area of counter-intelligence.  It aims to act as a catalyst for NATO adaptation and operations by supporting the development, promotion and implementation of new policies, concepts, strategies and doctrine that transform and enhance NATO counter-intelligence capabilities and interoperability.

Framework Nations: Poland and Slovakia

Accreditation: 2015

Crisis Management and Disaster Response (CMDR) COE

Location: Sofia, Bulgaria

Expertise: helping NATO, its members and partner countries in improving their capacity to deal with crises and disaster-response operations through collaborative partnerships.

Framework Nation: Bulgaria

Accreditation: 2015

Defence Against Terrorism (DAT) COE

Location: Ankara, Türkiye

Expertise: defending against terrorism, providing training on counter-terrorism, assisting in the development of doctrine and helping to improve NATO's capabilities and interoperability. It also publishes the Defence Against Terrorism Review twice a year. 

Framework Nation: Türkiye

Accreditation: 2006

Energy Security (ENSEC) COE

Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Expertise: supporting NATO's capability development process, mission effectiveness, and interoperability in the near, mid and long term by providing expertise on all aspects of energy security.

Framework Nation: Lithuania

Accreditation: 2012

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) COE

Location: Trenčín, Slovakia

Expertise: supporting and enhancing NATO transformation and operational efforts in the EOD area, while improving relations, interoperability and practical cooperation with partners, NATO command elements, member countries and international organisations. The Centre also works with NATO in the areas of standardization, doctrine development and concept validation. 

Framework Nation: Slovakia

Accreditation: 2011

Human Intelligence (HUMINT) COE

Location: Oradea, Romania

Expertise: human intelligence expertise for Strategic Commands and other NATO bodies to improve interoperability and standardization, and contribute to doctrine development through experimentation, testing and validation.

Framework Nation: Romania

Accreditation: 2010

Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) COE

Location: Chania, Greece

Expertise: supporting the development of NATO IAMD capabilities by keeping the Alliance up-to-date on technological progress and overcoming existing Alliance air defence systems interoperability deficiencies.

Framework Nation: Greece

Accreditation: 2021

Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC)

Location: Kalkar, Germany

Expertise: improving the land and maritime air power operations of the Alliance by developing and advancing new ideas for the command, control and use of air assets from all service branches, while ensuring the implementation of those ideas. It also supports the Strategic Commands and Sponsoring Nations.

Framework Nation: Germany

Accreditation: 2005

Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence (JCBRN Defence) COE

Location: Vyškov, Czechia

Expertise: developing defence doctrines, standards and knowledge with the goal of improving interoperability and capabilities in the area of CBRN defence. It advises NATO, Sponsoring Nations and other international organisations and institutions and shares lessons learned. It also trains and certifies the CBRN Defence Task Force of the NATO Response Force.

Framework Nation: Czechia

Accreditation: 2007

Maritime Geospatial, Meteorological and Oceanographic (MGEOMETOC) COE

Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Expertise: enhancing the Alliance's geospatial, meteorological and oceanographic information capabilities and exploring ways to optimise the use of sensors, weapons, targeting, logistics, equipment and personnel in the maritime environment.

Framework Nation: Portugal

Accreditation: 2021

Maritime Security (MARSEC) COE

Location: Yenilevent/Istanbul, Türkiye

Expertise: providing expertise both as a centre for academic research and as a (multinational) hub for practical training in the field of maritime security, along with relevant domains (maritime trade, energy security, maritime environment, maritime resources, public health, maritime transport-logistic). The Centre strives to achieve the necessary collaboration among stakeholders from government, industry, academia and the private sector.

Framework Nation: Türkiye

Accreditation: 2020

Military Engineering (MILENG) COE

Location: Ingolstadt, Germany

Expertise: joint and combined military engineering, with the aim of improving interoperability. 

Framework Nation: Germany

Accreditation: 2010

Military Medicine (MILMED) COE

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Expertise: developing the provision of effective, sustainable and ethical full-spectrum health services at best value to the Allies. It focuses on medical training and evaluation, standards development and lessons learned, while striving to improve multinational medical capabilities and interoperability.  

Framework Nation: Hungary

Accreditation: 2009

Military Police (MP) COE

Location: Bydgoszcz, Poland

Expertise: enhancing the capabilities of Military Police in NATO, fostering interoperability, and providing expertise on MP activities.

Framework Nation: Poland

Accreditation: 2014

Modelling and Simulation (M&S) COE

Location: Rome, Italy

Expertise: focus on education, training, knowledge management, lessons learned, analysis, concept development, experimentation, doctrine development and interoperability in the field of modelling and simulation.

Framework Nation: Italy

Accreditation: 2012

Mountain Warfare (MW) COE

Location: Poljče, Slovenia

Expertise: preparing both individuals and units for operations in mountainous and other difficult terrain, as well as in extreme weather conditions. More specifically, developing mountain warfare-specific doctrine and tactics; concept development and experimentation; mountain warfare lessons learned process; supporting capability development, and education and training.

Framework Nation: Slovenia

Accreditation: 2015

Naval Mine Warfare (NMW) COE

Location: Oostende, Belgium

Expertise: providing Naval Mine Countermeasures (NMCM) courses to naval personnel from Belgium and the Netherlands. It also acts as NMCM technical advisor to Allied Command Operations, assists NATO's Operational Commands and offers courses to NATO, partner and other non-NATO countries.

Framework Nations: Belgium and the Netherlands 

Accreditation: 2006

Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters (CSW) COE

Location: Kiel, Germany

Expertise: developing the Alliance's confined and shallow-water warfighting capabilities. 

Framework Nation: Germany

Accreditation: 2008

Security Force Assistance (SFA) COE

Location: Rome, Italy

Expertise: promoting stability and reconstruction efforts for conflict and post-conflict scenarios through related lessons learned, education and training analysis, development of concept and doctrine activities.

Framework Nation: Italy

Accreditation: 2018

Space COE

Location: Toulouse, France

Expertise: enhancing comprehension and transformation of Space Power by delivering effective solutions and providing relevant expertise to the benefit of NATO and NATO Allies.

Framework Nation: France

Accreditation: 2023

Stability Policing (SP) COE

Location: Vicenza, Italy

Expertise: increasing contributions to the stability and reconstruction efforts of the Alliance in post-conflict scenarios.

Framework Nation: Italy

Accreditation: 2015

Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) COE

Location: Riga, Latvia

Expertise: developing improved strategic communications capabilities within the Alliance by helping to advance doctrine development and harmonisation, conducting research and experimentation, identifying lessons learned from applied StratCom during operations, and enhancing training and education.  It also operates as a hub for debate within various StratCom disciplines: public diplomacy, public affairs, military public affairs, information operations and psychological operations.

Framework Nation: Latvia 

Accreditation: 2014


Working mechanisms

Different types of participants

There are three different types of participants for COEs: Framework Nations, Sponsoring Nations and Contributing Partners.

  • Generally, a Framework Nation agrees to take on the responsibility of developing the concept and implementation of the COE. In addition, it agrees to provide physical space for the operation of the COE, as well as personnel to run the institution. In most cases, there is a single Framework Nation for each COE, although multiple NATO Allies can agree to share the responsibility of Framework Nation.
  • Sponsoring Nations contribute financially to the COE and also provide personnel.
  • Contributing Partners provide financial support or some other service that is of use to the functioning of the COE.

NATO Allies can be either Framework Nations or Sponsoring Nations. Contributing Partners are non-NATO countries that contribute to the functioning of a COE.

Receiving NATO accreditation

All COEs follow a set process to receive NATO accreditation. When a NATO member country proposes to establish a NATO-accredited COE, it formally presents its offer to become a Framework Nation to the Chair of the Military Committee. This offer could be in response to a need identified by the Military Committee or it could come from an Ally's own initiative. Based upon the advice of the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (coordinated with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe), the Military Committee may accept the offer and task ACT to proceed with the development of the COE.

Afterwards, the Framework Nation further develops the concept, drafts an Operational Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and presents the COE offer to other countries. Those that are interested in joining the COE then engage in MOU negotiations before agreeing to the terms of the MOU. If the new COE does not have an existing facility at its disposal, it will establish a new one.

The Framework and Sponsoring Nations must also coordinate, draft, negotiate and agree to a Functional MOU with ACT. Subsequently, the COE enters into the accreditation phase. ACT develops specific accreditation criteria based on the Military Committee's accreditation criteria for COEs, after which the Framework Nation requests accreditation for the COE. A team from ACT then visits the COE and assesses it against the tailored list of points.

All COEs must act as a catalyst for NATO transformation and open activities to all Alliance members. COEs must not duplicate nor compete with current NATO capabilities, but instead offer an area of expertise not already found within NATO. To this end, all COEs must have subject-matter experts in their field of specialisation. ACT periodically re-assesses COEs in order to ensure that they continue to meet those criteria and assure continued NATO accreditation status. Ultimately, the Military Committee and the North Atlantic Council must approve the initial accreditation of the COE.


Evolution of the Centres of Excellence

COEs trace their roots back to the reorganisation of NATO's military command structure following the 2002 NATO Summit in Prague. After the summit, Allied Command Atlantic became Allied Command Transformation (ACT). ACT became responsible for transforming the Alliance into a leaner, more efficient organisation.

Specifically, ACT ensures that the Alliance is able to face future challenges by enhancing training, conducting experiments to test new concepts and promoting interoperability within the Alliance. In line with this goal, ACT has used its links with various institutions to direct the transformation of the military structure, forces, capabilities and doctrine of the Alliance.

The Joint Air Power Competence Centre in Germany and the Defence Against Terrorism Centre of Excellence in Türkiye became the first institutions to receive NATO COE accreditation in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Since then, dozens of COEs with NATO accreditation have been established across Alliance territory.